Sarvastivada!

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts.
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Sarvastivada!

Postby Lazy_eye » Tue Jun 28, 2011 5:26 am

Hi all:

I'm a bit curious how the Sarvastivada school justified its doctrine in relation to the Buddha's teachings on anicca and anatta. I'm assuming that (like pretty much every Buddhist school) the Sarvastivadans claimed to be representing the authentic dhamma, and yet -- on the surface of it, at least -- their notion of a permanently existing svabhava seems hard to reconcile with the teachings. Or is this because I'm retroactively applying a Mahayanist interpretation of anicca and anatta?

In any case, I'm interested to know how these folks might have explained the need for this notion -- i.e. what questions raised in the suttas does it answer, and how is it reconciled with what the Buddha taught? Also, if I remember correctly, a Sarvastivada canon of scriptures has been preserved; if so, does it differ in any significant way from the Pali Canon?

Thanks,

LE

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Re: Sarvastivada!

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Jun 28, 2011 5:32 am

Greetings Lazy_eye,

Lazy_eye wrote:In any case, I'm interested to know how these folks might have explained the need for this notion -- i.e. what questions raised in the suttas does it answer, and how is it reconciled with what the Buddha taught?

If I recall correctly (and I don't promise that I do), I think it was actually a development that occurred when they were developing their Abhidharma.

In terms of sutta justification, I think it comes from suttas which talk about the three time periods - past, present and future.

Take all of the above with a grain of salt, but it might give you something to follow up in your investigations.

Metta,
Retro. :)
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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Sarvastivada!

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Jun 28, 2011 5:55 am

Lazy_eye wrote:Hi all:

I'm a bit curious how the Sarvastivada school . . .
Rupert Gethin's The Foundations of Buddhism would be a good place to start. You can read what he wrote, then check his sources for more info.

I'm retroactively applying a Mahayanist interpretation of anicca and anatta?
I would be careful about taking the Mahayana (Tibetan Tenet System) critique as being accurate.

It is too bad Ven Paññāsikhara (Huifeng) is not here. (He is finishing his PhD work.). He would be a good, reliable source of information.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: Sarvastivada!

Postby Lazy_eye » Wed Jun 29, 2011 12:39 am

retrofuturist wrote:I think it was actually a development that occurred when they were developing their Abhidharma.


That was the impression I got too. For whatever it's worth, the IEP's entry on Nagarjuna goes into the historical context a bit. It says the Sarvastivadans were basically trying reconcile the orderliness of causal law with the Buddha's teachings on impermanence and not-self.

[The Buddha's teachings on anicca and anatta] prompted sharp and deep questions and criticisms, such as, “if the things and persons of the world are nothing more than atoms in constant flux, how can a person have an orderly experience of a world of apparent substances?”, “if there is no enduring identity or self, who is it that practices Buddhism and is liberated?”, and “how should we account for the differences between enlightened beings like the Buddha and unenlightened ones, like ourselves?” Answering such questions intelligibly for the inquiring minds of the philosophical community were a number of distinct schools which came collectively to be known as schools involved with the “analysis of elements” (abhidharma).


Buddhist theory and practice had always been based on the notion that, not just psychological attachment, but all phenomena are causally interdependent, that all things and events which come to pass in the world arise out of a causal chain (pratityasamutpada). Buddhism is inconceivable without this causal theory, for it opens the door to the diagnosis and removal of suffering. For the Universal Existence and True Doctrine schools, however, the second linchpin was a theory of fundamental elements, a theory which had to follow from any coherent causal theory. Causes, their philosophical exponents figured, are not merely arbitrary, but are regular and predictable, and their regularity must be due to the fact the things or phenomena have fixed natures of their own (svabhava), which determine and limit the kinds of causal powers they can and cannot exert on other things.

tiltbillings wrote: I would be careful about taking the Mahayana (Tibetan Tenet System) critique as being accurate.


I'd actually never heard of this before. Is it important to non-Tibetan Mahayana schools also?

It is too bad Ven Paññāsikhara (Huifeng) is not here. (He is finishing his PhD work.). He would be a good, reliable source of information.


Yes indeed. Maybe we could bump this thread once he returns.

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Re: Sarvastivada!

Postby daverupa » Wed Jun 29, 2011 1:20 am

May I recommend Noa Ronkin's Early Buddhist Metaphysics in this connection. She carefully and sequentially goes over the minutiae of these developments.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: Sarvastivada!

Postby alan » Wed Jun 29, 2011 2:35 am

"Foundations" is a good book, but I was left wondering about the Sarvastivada position on many subjects after reading it. Just took a quick glance at it again all I can find is "they believe in a doctrine that all things [past, present, and future] exist". There is also a bit about how their abhidhamma differs slightly, but nothing in particular that would fill in the blanks about what they believed or why.

Tomorrow morning I'll brew up a pot of coffee and try to get over my reluctance to read anything relating to Nargajuna.

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Re: Sarvastivada!

Postby Akuma » Wed Jun 29, 2011 7:20 am

I'm a bit curious how the Sarvastivada school justified its doctrine in relation to the Buddha's teachings on anicca and anatta.
I'm assuming that (like pretty much every Buddhist school) the Sarvastivadans claimed to be representing the authentic dhamma, and yet -- on the surface of it, at least -- their notion of a permanently existing svabhava seems hard to reconcile with the teachings. Or is this because I'm retroactively applying a Mahayanist interpretation of anicca and anatta?


No problem there. The Theravadins also have (permanent) svabhava, else f.e. the nature of the citta would be able to change and the whole philosophy wouldnt work. The svabhava of the Sarvastivadins is the same its merely the nature of the dharma looked at and means that f.e. vedana always has the nature of sensation. But contrary to common belief these dharmas dont exist in a past or future for Sarvastivadins because just as in Theravada there is no temporality apart from dharmas. Temporality itself is brought forth by the activity or inactivity of combinations of dharmas in Sarvastivada. Permanence therefore doesnt apply since the dharmas transcend the notion.

In any case, I'm interested to know how these folks might have explained the need for this notion -- i.e. what questions raised in the suttas does it answer, and how is it reconciled with what the Buddha taught? Also, if I remember correctly, a Sarvastivada canon of scriptures has been preserved; if so, does it differ in any significant way from the Pali Canon?


Because a present-only standpoint cant explain changes like kusala-akusala and vice versa, or the appearance of dharmas not there in the moment before.

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Re: Sarvastivada!

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Jun 29, 2011 7:55 am

Akuma wrote:No problem there. The Theravadins also have (permanent) svabhava, else f.e. the nature of the citta would be able to change and the whole philosophy wouldnt work.
Probably not. From the Path of Purification (Visuddhimagga):

"On the contrary, before their rise [the bases, aayatana] they had no individual essence [sabhaava], and after their fall their individual essence are completely dissolved. And they occur without mastery [being exercisable over them] since they exist in dependence on conditions and in between the past and the future." Page 551 XV 15. And

XV 21: "These are elements (dhaatu) since they cause [a state's] own individual essence [sabhaava] to be borne (dhaarenti)."

Harvey in his excellent INTRODUCTION TO BUDDHISM, page 97, states in reference to the Mahayana critique of the Abhidharma (of the Sarvastivadins): "That is, seeing a dharma as an ultimate building block of reality, with an inherent nature of its 'own', is to hold that it can be identified without reference to other dharmas on which it depends. This implies that it can exist independently, making it a virtual self."

Harvey characterizes the Theravadin position, page 87: "'They are dhammas because they uphold their own nature [sabhaava]. They are dhammas because they are upheld by conditions or they are upheld according to their own nature' (Asl.39). Here 'own-nature' [sabhava] would mean characteristic nature, which is not something inherent in a dhamma as a separate ultimate reality, but arise due to the supporting conditions both of other dhammas and previous occurrences of that dhamma. This is of significance as it makes the Mahayana critique of the Sarvastivadin's notion of own-nature largely irrelevant to the Theravada."
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: Sarvastivada!

Postby Akuma » Wed Jun 29, 2011 8:01 am

To enhance the answer to the second question ->

Abhidharma-vijnaanakaya-shastra wrote:1.) two thoughts cant be conascent and a thought or thought-concomitant cant know itself. its said in the sutra that a person can witness the craving in his mind etc. when one is making the observation the observing thought and the craving (the thought havign the craving) cannot be simultaneous, nor can the present thought know itself. The craving observed must then be eithe rpast or future. And past and future dharmas must be existent.

2.) Karma and vipaka cannot be simultaenous; the fact that a karma which has become past can give rise to its retribution later proves the existence of the former as a past dharma, i.e. an existent in its past-mode.

3.) The Buddha has taught that consciousness necessarily has an object (alambana); since we can have consciousness of what is past and future, past and future dharmas must be existent.

4.) One can be endowed with dharmas which dont arise presently; it is taught in the sutra that someone in nirodha-samapatti wherein no mental activity arises is still endowed with mental qualities such as moderateness in wishes, shamefulness, etc; likewise a trainee is still endowed with 5 spiritual faculties - faith, vigor etc - even when he has an enwrapped or defiled mind. Accordingly those which arent present but can still be possessed must be existing as past or future dharmas.

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Re: Sarvastivada!

Postby Akuma » Wed Jun 29, 2011 8:16 am

tiltbillings wrote:Harvey characterizes the Theravadin position, page 87: "'They are dhammas because they uphold their own nature [sabhaava]. They are dhammas because they are upheld by conditions or they are upheld according to their own nature' (Asl.39). Here 'own-nature' [sabhava] would mean characteristic nature, which is not something inherent in a dhamma as a separate ultimate reality, but arise due to the supporting conditions both of other dhammas and previous occurrences of that dhamma. This is of significance as it makes the Mahayana critique of the Sarvastivadin's notion of own-nature largely irrelevant to the Theravada."


Its irrelevant to the Sarvastivada too.

Samghabadra wrote:Svabhava is not permanent as whatever is permanent doesnt go thru time... Whiel the svabhava always remain the same, its avastha differs since there is change. This differene of avastha is produced on account of conditions and necessarily stays no more than one ksana. Accordingly, the svabhava of the dharma, too, is impermanent.

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Re: Sarvastivada!

Postby daverupa » Wed Jun 29, 2011 11:20 am

On page 110 of Early Buddhist Metaphysics, Noa Ronkin is writing about the Sarvastivadan concepts of svabhava and svalaksana. "To have a svabhava is to be a primary existent. Hence the svabhava is the determinant of a dharma which is dravya, a substantially real entity, and is what defines a dharma as having primary existential status regardless of its temporal status."

Page 111: "Bear in mind, though, that the Theravadins did not subscribe to the Sarvastivadin metaphysics: they did not incorporate the Sarvastivada atomistic theory directly into their system, and rejected the claim that the dharmes exist as past, present, and future. Most importantly for the present context, they did not use the category of sabhava to denote dravya and rejected the very Sarvastivada equation of a dharma with dravya."
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: Sarvastivada!

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Jun 29, 2011 12:59 pm

Akuma wrote:Its irrelevant to the Sarvastivada too.

Samghabadra wrote:Svabhava is not permanent as whatever is permanent doesnt go thru time... Whiel the svabhava always remain the same, its avastha differs since there is change. This differene of avastha is produced on account of conditions and necessarily stays no more than one ksana. Accordingly, the svabhava of the dharma, too, is impermanent.
The interesting this, is what do actual Sarvastivadin texts say as opposed to what the Tibetan Tenet systems says.


Just a note: The above mentioned book is available in PDF, but I cannot say that it is legal or a bootleg.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: Sarvastivada!

Postby Akuma » Wed Jun 29, 2011 1:43 pm

tilt wrote:The interesting this, is what do actual Sarvastivadin texts say as opposed to what the Tibetan Tenet systems says.


Im not sure I understand what you mean. Samghabhadra was a kashmirian Sarvastivada / Vaibashika master.

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Re: Sarvastivada!

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Jun 29, 2011 2:26 pm

Akuma wrote:
tilt wrote:The interesting this, is what do actual Sarvastivadin texts say as opposed to what the Tibetan Tenet systems says.


Im not sure I understand what you mean. Samghabhadra was a kashmirian Sarvastivada / Vaibashika master.
The point is that it is better to read Samghabhadra has to say than what much later Tibetans have to say long after the Sarvastivada has ceased to be a living school.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: Sarvastivada!

Postby Alex123 » Wed Jun 29, 2011 11:31 pm

If anyone is interested to read this long article on Sarvastivada

http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-ADM/bastow.htm

Any comments about it? They do seem to have their reasons for asserting what they do.
"dust to dust...."

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Re: Sarvastivada!

Postby Akuma » Fri Jul 01, 2011 12:11 pm

alex123 wrote:If anyone is interested to read this long article on Sarvastivada

http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-ADM/bastow.htm

Any comments about it? They do seem to have their reasons for asserting what they do.


Been a while since I read that. I'm from time to time enjoying Sarvastivada Abhidharma from Bhikkhu Dhammajoti which is a 550+ pages info-heap densely packed with all the relevant aspects of the sect.
I personally find Sarvastivada itself is quite cool; if youre someone drawn to further inquiry its prolly better than Theravada since first of all at least some of the commentarial material is actually available and secondly because it can answer questions that the Theravada cannot. Apart from the ones already mentioned this would for example be ones related to the workings of karma and of what f.e. distinguishes an arya from a putthujana, which becomes explained by the appropriation (prapti) of certain dharmas to the mind-stream; the latter obviously cant be explained by Theravadins because of their lack of atemporal existents. On the other hand side, while the Sarvastivadins explanation of prapti for example shows their honesty and interest in creating a useable and meaningful philosophy out of the snippets of information in the suttas, its enhancements like this which also show the big drawback of religious philosophy so typical for it - namely that the seeming explanations are just extensions of a fixed system based on not much more than unproven premises. This is more obvious in mystical traditions like f.e. the jewish Kabbalah or the Vajrayana where layers and layers of symbols and interconnections are produced which in their complexity and apparent perfection seem to point to some (mystical) truth or law while in fact only being the outcome of a wishful mind making the parts fit or - as in the example of dhammic appropriation - just creating new parts.

But if one ignores this maybe necessary drawback the school has some interesting teachings and answers; it mightve even survived up until today in enhanced form if the Yogacarins wouldnt have marched in with their easier-to-swallow alaya-vijnaana idea which probably was also more appealing to the people not interested / trained in abhidhammic analysis. Funnily of course nowadays many people cant even grasp that concept ;)

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Re: Sarvastivada!

Postby daverupa » Fri Jul 01, 2011 12:41 pm

:coffee:

Akuma wrote:its prolly better than Theravada since first of all at least some of the commentarial material is actually available and secondly because it can answer questions that the Theravada cannot... interest in creating a useable and meaningful philosophy out of the snippets of information in the suttas...


:jawdrop:

Apparently, for you, Sarvastivada commentary can answer questions the Suttas cannot, and apparently the Suttas on their own don't have, for you, the designation "useable". Do I misunderstand? After all, this is the Early Buddhism sub-forum, and I want to be sure to understand what you mean before I make a detailed response.

:heart:
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: Sarvastivada!

Postby Akuma » Fri Jul 01, 2011 1:19 pm

Apparently, for you, Sarvastivada commentary can answer questions the Suttas cannot, and apparently the Suttas on their own don't have, for you, the designation "useable". Do I misunderstand?


You do. Im giving credit to the schools like Sarvastivada for example to systematize the teachings in the sutras into a philosophy, including reactions to outside criticisms. This in my opinion is no small feat.

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Re: Sarvastivada!

Postby daverupa » Fri Jul 01, 2011 1:56 pm

Akuma wrote:systematize... reactions to outside criticisms. This in my opinion is no small feat.


I don't think it is a small feat, either. But while any abhidhamma might be credited with protecting and propogating the Dhamma in a meme-hostile environment, I distinguish the protection from the protected. Despite the abhidhamma serving a historical purpose of some importance, that the SuttaVinaya differs marginally between these early schools while their abhidhammas differ in many respects ought to encourage skepticism of all abhidhamma alongside a concomitant rise in confidence in the SuttaVinaya.

:soap:
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: Sarvastivada!

Postby Paññāsikhara » Mon Oct 24, 2011 6:48 am

Lazy_eye wrote:Hi all:

I'm a bit curious how the Sarvastivada school justified its doctrine in relation to the Buddha's teachings on anicca and anatta. I'm assuming that (like pretty much every Buddhist school) the Sarvastivadans claimed to be representing the authentic dhamma, and yet -- on the surface of it, at least -- their notion of a permanently existing svabhava seems hard to reconcile with the teachings. Or is this because I'm retroactively applying a Mahayanist interpretation of anicca and anatta?

In any case, I'm interested to know how these folks might have explained the need for this notion -- i.e. what questions raised in the suttas does it answer, and how is it reconciled with what the Buddha taught? Also, if I remember correctly, a Sarvastivada canon of scriptures has been preserved; if so, does it differ in any significant way from the Pali Canon?

Thanks,

LE


Basically, dharmas are still anitya and anatman, because they are within the context of time.
Whatever is nitya and atman, ie. unconditioned, can be outside of time.

The need is simple, the same basic problem that Buddhists have always had:
How to resolve the notion of multiple lives in samsara, with karmic causal efficacy and result,
without positing a permanent entity that is the same through time.

You can check out the arguments in the Abhidharma-kosa, the four basic theories of the
great Vaibhasika panditas, Buddhadeva, Vasumitra, etc.

Their system is more subtle than 90% of people give them credit for,
especially nowadays, considering that few advocate their position as their own.

Their system is thus answering the same question to which the Theravadins posited the bhavanga,
the Mahasamghikas the mula-vijnana, and other schools the asamsarika-skandha,
and the adana- and alaya-vijnana systems; and the basic Sautrantika bija theories.

I recommend checking out the Karmasiddhi-prakarana on this one, for a great classic account.

As for the comparison of their canon, that is a big issue, and more than I can get into before
a class in about 20 minutes ... :tongue:

~~ Huifeng
My recently moved Blog, containing some of my writings on the Buddha Dhamma, as well as a number of translations from classical Buddhist texts and modern authors, liturgy, etc.: Huifeng's Prajnacara Blog.


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